Tell us about yourself!
I’m Jamie, and I own the Design Upholstery workshop in Long Eaton. It’s a family business, I work with my mum and dad, brother and cousins. Oh, and two dogs – Trent and Judy (they’re not allowed to sit on the sofas, mind!). We’re British through and through and craft everything ourselves – not a machine in sight.
How did you get started?
Well, everyone round our way does upholstery. If you’re from Long Eaton, you’ll know someone in the upholstery trade. For me it was my dad who bought our workshop the week I was born, so it’s all I’ve ever known. I manage the workshop now and take care of management and development, but still work on a sofa every now and then.
How long did you train for?
I started when I was 15 on the bench like many of my classmates from school, but all our upholsterers train for at least 3 years. We employee three apprentices at the moment who are all perfecting their buttons – it’s the first step!
What has been the most memorable piece you’ve worked on?
We’ve worked on all kinds of things, including a number of bespoke celebrity sofas but probably the most memorable is the chair we did recently for a Disney expo at Somerset House. Myself and the team stayed up until 3 am to get that finished – and then were back in the workshop for 5am! Luckily we don’t live too far away.
Tell us about the techniques you use in the workshop.
We use traditional techniques, things that we’ve learnt through generations. Even when it comes to creating a new model, such as the Little Lady, we’ll look for inspiration from vintage pieces and how they were put together before we start. Traditional is always best.
What did you do with the Little Lady?
That chair in particular was based on an old 1930s vintage favourite but it needed bringing up to date for the demands of modern living. We developed a new back spring, that would give the chair more support and make it more comfortable for todays discerning consumer.
Tell us about the workshop!
It’s not actually that big, about the size of a football pitch, and it’s like a rabbit warren. It used to be an old Chinese Laundry before my dad bought it in 1984. We have 27 employees and the two dogs. We also have a large wood mill on the other side of town too that supplies all the wood for our frames.
As an upholsterer, what are your favourite fabrics and do you have any tips for choosing sofa fabric?
The sofa frames we make are designed to last at least 10 years so we want to ensure the fabric is very durable. I’d recommend any fabric that will stand the test of time. There are some beautiful fabrics out there, but sturdiness is key for me.
What Sofa do you have?
I have a Dali and yes, I built it myself!
Finally, if you weren’t an upholsterer – what would you be doing now?
Apart from sunning myself in Tenerife, you mean? When I was growing up, I always fancied being a tattoo artist!